China, a land of 1.3 billion people living literally half a world away from the United States. The two nations are separated not only by thousands of miles but vastly different languages and cultures, as well. Yet despite the gap between them, they share one common bond that becomes stronger all the time: the game of basketball. Its popularity in China has grown at a remarkable rate with more and more youngsters across the country playing the game as well as following the NBA. And there is one player who leads the way as China’s greatest basketball export and a symbol of national pride. He is Yao Ming.
Yao has been a center of attention ever since he was drafted(v.选拔,征募) by the Rockets in 2002. Standing 7’6’’, he became the first player from outside the U.S. to become the league’s number-one draft pick and only the third Chinese-born player to enter the NBA. But Yao’s rookie(n.新手) season would bring a unique set of challenges on and off the court.
Yao Ming: In the U.S., basketball is about fun. There are a lot of other things involved in basketball here, and I think that the outcome of the game is just part of it.
Yao certainly wasn’t used to competing against the best players in the world on a nightly basis.
Journalist: Just give us your impressions of your first game with the Rockets.
Yao Ming: When you watch it on TV it seems real easy, but when you’re out there playing, it’s extremely difficult.
But the Rockets organization did all it could to ease(v.使……轻松;减轻) Yao’s transition to his new surroundings.
Yao Ming: In getting used to the NBA life, I’ve had a lot of help from other people. Playing basketball together allows us to have a lot of common language. I think basketball is a kind of language.
With a support system in place, Yao started becoming comfortable on the court and he began to show the talent that had made him China’s premier player.
“Yao Ming posts up, takes it inside, swings back, lays it up for two. What a move!”
“Nice pass! I saw it coming! I saw it coming! I saw it coming!”
“And Yao Ming with a block on Peterson at the end of the quarter. Peterson tried to get the shot off, and Yao said: not in my house!”
In just his rookie season, Yao emerged as one of the NBA’s most versatile(a.通用的,万能的) centers as he displayed an array of skills rarely ever seen in a player his size.
Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics): Oh, he’s a phenomenal(a.显著的) big man. You know, he’s 7’6’’, a guy who can run the floor, shoot from the perimeter. I think he’s our next generation of the next great big men to come into this league.
Despite his skills, Yao couldn’t lead Houston to the playoffs(n.最后决赛). So during the off-season he set out to become a better player both physically and fundamentally. And he would also embark(v.从事,着手) on a new phase of his NBA education when he received a visit from one of the game’s legendary centers.
Assistant: Have you met Bill Walton?
Bill Walton: Hi, I’m Bill.
Yao Ming: Nice to meet you.
Bill: It’s a pleasure to see you, Yao Ming. Yes.
Old school would teach new school some of the secrets of his success. And before he departed, Walton shared some final words of wisdom.
Bill: Stay healthy. Get your rest. Learn to protect yourself. They’re gonna come after you, OK? Remember, it’s gotta be fun. Because if you’re not having fun then who else is gonna have any fun? Remember, it’s mental game. All the time. All right?
Yao Ming: All right. Thanks.
Bill: Good luck.